A few weeks ago, I was drinking with an old friend and we were discussing happiness in our lives. My friend discussed his melancholy at work, his worries in his relationships, and the fear of losing his skills in writing as the time between practice grew further and further apart. Taking a drink of his cheap whiskey, he complained about feeling like he wasn't allowed to be happy in his life, and that even the happier moments were overshadowed by a feeling of despair. Finally, when he felt he had put all his misery on the table, he asked me if I understood what he meant.
"No, not at all."
I'm sure there are a good many people who would have stared at me in the same incredulous fashion that my old friend did. Allow me to first explain that of course I can empathize with the man - I'm not impervious to sadness or depression (I was, after all, a teenager at one point in my life). The reason I couldn't understand him was because I honestly found it hard for him to be sad with his life. Indeed, my life shared the same difficulties as his, but I never looked to the dark edge, and rather found myself quite happy with my altogether bright life.
The two of us were both graduates from well-off colleges despite being problematic children from small farming towns. We managed to find reasonably good jobs despite the tragedy of our country's job market. And against all else, we were both in excellent relationships with beautiful, loving fiances. In the end, we were able to meet for a drink at the local bar and grab a bit of pipe like a couple of old boys.
But while I could consider my life quite pleasant, my companion had the belief that we were both lost in a tragic life!
The two of us were mediocre students all of our lives, and we squandered a great deal of money and time in getting to a place that could have been reached by a far cheaper and far quicker path. Our work was menial and mind-numbing, and we fell well below our dreams. And as for our love life, my friend was of the opinion that our fiances loved us only out of necessity or obligation, and that we were too content with the status quo to either drop out of the relationship and start anew or even try harder to make the relationships better. In the end, his life could be summarized in this meeting: drinking cheap and smoking - hoping that one day the cancer will raise itself as the true end to our meaningless lives.
I couldn't help but laugh as he explained his thoughts to me. Life's events are forever lined with both good and bad, but I've never really quite been able to sit down and look at things that way. The thing is, my friend was right when you looked at life through his glasses - a broken pessimist. I consider my own glasses to be tinted with a faint gray - I'm no optimist, but I'm a positive realist. I find happiness in the gray world, and the monotony of my life only gave me the vision to notice the subtle differences from day to day. And of course, who am I to complain about my life? I don't mind if the world is gray so long as I still have my lovely girl, the one who speaks to me in a voice awash with color and vibrant life. Maybe I'm happy with my life because I was able to put my life and soul into a small jar, to be put away into something important while my body sustained my worldly needs. I found happiness in my bright girl - my friend seen his fiance as just another scar in his heart.
We talked for a while longer, setting ourselves for the long haul as we repacked out pipes (my friend and I looked at the pipe as a communal spark, the cigarette was a tool of the trade) and ordered something a little fruity (I have had a sweet tooth lately, and the pineapple mix that night ran like honey). We looked at our writing and discussed our old comrades. Another one of us had passed away last year - a young lady who was a brilliant artist and musician, her skill matched only by her passion for love and friendship. We drank a toast to the poor girl, who decided that her life could not go on without her beloved and leaped in front of a train. My friend spoke of her well, and we remarked on the pity we felt for the disbanding of the old group.
"Don't you think we could have done something for her, old boy?"
The question was a painful one, and my answer I think reflected that feeling.
"No, not in this life at least."
Where a person goes, their life was the path that takes them. Our dear friend who passed on left this world because her life pushed her to such a conclusion. My friend and I, had we remained on the same path, might have been able to save her then, but from where we were, we were helpless observers - it was old news, and we only just found out three months after it had happened. It was sad stuff, but this was the life we lived.
Not all is bad, though.
Another one of our companions, a kind old fellow that we were rather close to, was getting remarried after a terrible divorce some decade back. He was happy, my friend said, and the old man wanted to know our phone numbers so he could keep in touch in a slightly more personal way. Of course, I told my friend to give it to him whenever he wrote the reply letter at his earliest convenience and to congratulate him for me when he did so.
We eventually parted ways, a little drunk, a little happier than when we began the chat. Despite the tragedy of time and the difficulties of life, we could honestly come to an agreement that life, for all its despair, had a few beautiful moments to give to those who bothered to notice.
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